OUR CINDERELLA RUN: PART THREE
© 2015, Gadi Bossin
P.O. Box 20
Kiryat Bialik, Israel
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. This book contains material protected under International and Federal Copyright Laws and Treaties. Any unauthorized reprint or use of this material is prohibited. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without express written permission from the author.
OUR CINDERELLA RUN: PART THREE
Archie Rosen was up and I was in the on-deck circle. “Save me a hit, Archie,” I was praying. “C’mon, Arch!” I shouted.
Archie swung at the first pitch and fouled it off. Then he let two balls go by. The fourth pitch was a called strike two. Two and two. Two out. “Deuces wild,” I was thinking. That’s what Joe Crysdale and Hal Kelly, the sports announcers at CKEY, the radio station that broadcast the Toronto Maple Leafs baseball games, would say.
Both bleacher sections were abuzz with excitement. I held my breath. Archie stared out at Big Al. Big Al nodded his head at his catcher’s signal and went into his motion.
Then Archie did a quick shuffle forward in the batter’s box. I don’t think Big Al saw him do this and anyway he couldn’t have stopped his windup. Archie was going to try to hit the rise ball before it was at the top of the strike zone. I was still holding my breath.
At the crack of the bat, everyone knew Archie had done it. He met the ball and pulled it deep into left field. It rocketed over the fielder’s head and there was no doubt at all it was a tie game.
When he crossed the plate with the tying run, I hugged Archie and shouted, “You did it, Arch! You did it!”
Now, it was up to me to keep the inning alive, but I was so overwhelmed with relief, I hit the first pitch off the end of the bat.
The ball spun weakly down the first baseline. I was out and we had to hold the Lumberjacks in the bottom of the inning.
“It’s 5-5, boys. Hang in there!” Ned shouted hoarsely.
The sky was streaking red and it was getting hard to see. There were no lights at the Lumberjacks’ field.
The umpire called Ned and Pops and the two captains, me and Big Al, to a conference at the plate.
“Gentlemen,” he said, “this is the last inning. If the Lumberjacks score, the game is over. If they don’t, it’s a tie game. We can’t play another inning. It’ll be too dark in fifteen minutes.”
The Lumberjacks had the top of their lineup coming to bat, their best hitters, and they knew just what they had to do.
The first batter hit a line drive single to center. Jackie was playing too deep in center field to catch the ball on the fly.
Pops had the next boy up sacrifice bunt the runner over to second. Now a single could score the runner and end the game.
But Wally struck out the next batter. We needed to get one more out.
Big Al was up. He’d had that double in the first inning that scored two runs. We had to be careful.
I looked out at Jackie. Jackie had taken a few steps in toward second base. I called out to him, “Move back. I know him. He hits deep to center field. It’s going to be over your head if you play too shallow.”
But Jackie shook his head and said, “I have to cut off the short hit. I can’t let another ball drop in. A single could score the winning run.”
I turned back and tried to think what I would do if the ball came to me at shortstop and for the first time in my life I was thinking, “What if I boot a ground ball, or worse still, what if I pick it up and make a bad throw to first?”
But that didn’t happen.
Big Al hit the first pitch high and deep to center field. I thought, “It’s over. There’s no way Jackie’s going to catch this ball.”
Then I saw Jackie running faster than I’d ever seen him run before. He had reacted perfectly and had taken off at the instant of contact. He was flying!
The ball stayed up just long enough for Jackie to reach out with his glove hand and catch it inches from the ground. Jackie’s momentum took him into a forward somersault and he rolled over twice, going away from the infield, before leaping up onto his feet and holding his glove up high to show the umpire he had made the catch.
Big Al pulled up just short of second base and shook his head in resignation.
Then, still shaking his head, he shot me an ironic smile. I winked back at him and ran out into center field with the rest of the Mounties where we fell all over Jackie and each other.
Later on, in the parking lot, just before we got into our families’ cars, Jackie said to me, “When I heard the crack of the bat, I knew where the ball was going right away. I turned and ran with all my might.”
I said, “I thought there was no way you were going to make the catch.”
Jackie laughed. “Yeah, but you’d just told me to play deeper and I was thinking I had to make the play.”
Dad said, “Sensational catch, young fella,” and shook Jackie’s hand. Then he turned to me and just hugged me. “Good game, Son. You Mounties played like champions.”
I guess my father knew a championship team when he saw one. He’d played on championship teams in his youth.
He sure called it right that evening in the parking lot. Anyhow, that 5-5 tie game was the beginning of our Cinderella run to the league championship.
We went on to beat the Lumberjacks in the next game. The score was 8-3. And then we closed out the series with a 10-5 win at our home field in the fourth game.
We defeated the Canadian Legion Legionnaires two games to zero in the semi-finals. In the pitchers’ duel in our home game, we beat the Legionnaires 2-1.
The amazing thing about that 2-1 win was that Marv Reisman, our number-nine hitter, was the batting star.
He had two hits out of our team total of five, and he scored both runs, the second in the bottom of the seventh when he scored from third on a squeeze bunt by Jackie—this time it worked—with two out.
The smile he had on his face sliding home is something I’ll never forget.
We won the away game 16-8.
Following the low-scoring first game, it was a free-swinging affair that came as a surprise. Everyone on our team had two or three hits that game.
We also swept the final series against the first-place MacGregor Pharmacy Pipers, two to nothing.
In the first game, we trailed 5-0 after two innings, but we launched a comeback by bunting and running and stealing bases to score a 9-7 victory.
The second game was a copy of the first. We fell behind 7-0 before bunting the Pipers’ pitcher crazy and winning 12-8.
I remember the sweet, smooth taste of the bottle of NuGrape I drank as we celebrated our triumph at the Winston Park Smoke and Gift Shoppe that evening. And I remember how chocolatey-delicious the Fudgsicle I ate was.
I also remember we felt pretty good about ourselves.
We had finished the season in the last playoff spot and then gone on to beat three teams that were favored to beat us.
Together with our five-and-one win-loss record at the end of the season, our six wins, one loss and one tie in the playoffs meant we had won eleven games, lost two and tied one in our last fourteen games.
None of the other teams could boast such a streak.
The black-and-white team photo we took the evening we won the championship—that was almost 57 years ago—is still in my collection of sports mementos.
We’re in two rows, one standing and one kneeling.
In the middle of the lower row, Wally Davidson is holding a trophy so big he has to peek out from behind it. On either side of Wally are Mack and Jackie, holding bats crossed at an eighty degree angle.
We are all still wearing our team jerseys and you can read the logo on the front: DUFFIELD BOYS CLUB.
Most of us are wearing our team caps, with just Mack and Jackie and Dick Clairmont bareheaded.
The caps cast shadows over our eyes, except for Wally’s. His cap is tilted up at a relaxed angle.
Chipper has his glove on his left hand with the index finger of his glove hand resting on the outside of the glove. His right hand is tucked into the pocket of the glove as if he’s still at the ready to make a play.
Marv Reisman is holding his glove in a similar way. Archie is holding his catcher’s mask and has his kneepads and chest protector at his feet.
Looking at the championship photo, I imagine each player and coach is reliving his heroics as he smiles at the camera.
There’s Chipper’s pleased-with-himself smile, the one he had on his face after his Texas leaguer dropped in to put runners on second and third in the seventh inning of the tie game against the Lumberjacks.
And Archie’s smile is the same one he flashed as he crossed the plate with the tying run in that game.
Marv’s smile is exactly the same ear-to-ear smile of triumph as his smile was as he slid home with the winning run in the 2-1 game against the Legionnaires and Jackie’s face mirrors the glee and relief in his eyes following that miraculous catch off Big Al in center field.
Mack and Wally appear still amazed by Mack’s grab of Wally’s rifled throw to first base for the third out in the last inning of the championship game that had ended only a few minutes before the picture was taken.
As for me, . . . well, my smile is very broad and toothy. It shows how happy I am. And it says, “This is my team. And these are my teammates and my friends.”
I knew just what to do when I got my copy of the team picture. I turned it over and across the top I printed this heading in large block letters:
1958 PEEWEE SOFTBALL CHAMPIONS!
NORTH YORK SOFTBALL LEAGUE, WESTERN ZONE
I traced over the letters to make them dark and bold.
Below the heading, I printed the names of our coaches and of my teammates.
I wanted to remember them all. I didn’t ever want to forget that team and what it meant to all of us to do what we had done together.
I never did.
STANDING FROM LEFT TO RIGHT:
JIM EDWARDS (ASST. COACH), STU ROBERTS, CHIPPER EDWARDS, BILL JAMES, TOMMY ROLLINS, GEDDY MASON, DICK CLAIRMONT, NED SINCLAIR (COACH)
KNEELING FROM LEFT TO RIGHT:
MARV REISMAN, MACK LAWRENCE, WALLY DAVIDSON, JACKIE GELMAN, ARCHIE ROSEN